Tips for writing a reference for an employee & Staff Appraisals

If you’re going ahead and writing a reference, there are a few things to remember:

  1. It must be fair and accurate – the law says you must be ‘fair and accurate’ in your reference to protect workers’ rights, so if you give any opinions they should be backed up by evidence. 
  2. Keep it simple and to the point – a reference can be as short or long as you like, depending on whether you choose to write a basic or detailed reference, but make it simple to read and concise.
  3. Avoid irrelevant personal information – it’s against the law to include information on ‘protected characteristics’ when writing a reference, except on rare occasions where a characteristic is an ‘occupational requirement’. 

Further information on this link at Simply Business

What is a staff appraisal form?

A staff appraisal form is a document employers can use to record development discussions with their employees. For example, you might have an annual performance management meeting with each of your staff members to check in with how they’re performing against their individual and company objectives.

When it comes to what to write in an appraisal form, it should be a fair and clear communication of areas discussed in an appraisal meeting.

One element of your performance management policy

An appraisal form is just one element of a business’s performance management policy. If you don’t have a policy in place yet, it may be a good idea to write one.

Your policy should explain how line managers should be reviewing the performance of staff, for example: 

  • timely, honest, and constructive feedback
  • immediate feedback and development in cases of unsatisfactory performance
  • immediate praise for success and exceptional achievements
  • having regular one-to-one meetings, including a review of performance against objectives and expected behaviours
  • recording formal appraisal meetings (for example annually)
  • discussing development opportunities to help the employee improve

How to carry out an appraisal

An appraisal meeting should be part of your performance management policy. It’s designed as a formal opportunity for you to discuss the employee’s performance, usually against a set of objectives.

Normally objectives should be SMART – this stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely. These targets should give your staff a sense of what they should be working on, how they’re going to develop it, and when it needs to be completed.

If it’s your first appraisal with an employee, you’ll usually discuss performance against the job description and any training they may have completed since starting in their role.

The appraisal meeting is part of an ongoing cycle of objective setting, performance review and feedback – not a standalone event. It may also be linked to your salary review process.

What should you discuss in an appraisal meeting?

Appraisal meetings are a chance for a line manager and employee to discuss:

  • what went well this year
  • what didn’t go so well
  • training needs

It’s important to remember the purpose of these meetings is around development, and they shouldn’t be confrontational.

Give your employees time to prepare

Make sure you give your employee advance notice of the meeting so they have time to prepare. For example, you may want them to complete a self-assessment document beforehand so they can think about what’s gone well and where they want to develop.

How to use our appraisal form template

Our appraisal form template, brought to you in collaboration with our partner Farillio, is an editable form in Microsoft Word format.

It’s ready to use for your business, so you can easily complete it as part of an employee’s performance review.

This appraisal form has sections for:

  • summarising your employee’s current performance and achievements
  • recording performance against key objectives
  • identifying development and training opportunities
  • career planning (for example if your employee is interested in developing in another area of the business or department)
  • overall assessment of performance – with examples of where objectives have or haven’t been met

As a manager, you’ll keep a copy of the form, give one copy to the employee, and keep a final copy in their personnel file.


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